Sleep Habits

6 Secrets to Better Sleep

6 Secrets to Better Sleep
Image credit: Navy_NADAP | Flickr

On an intellectual level we all know that our bodies function better when we take good care of ourselves, but it’s easy to take our health for granted, especially when we work a lot and take care of others.

Related: Sleep Deprivation Is Killing You and Your Career

Stress is always going to be part of our daily lives, but in order to be as competitive and poised as possible, entrepreneurs should know the importance, for success, of practicing self-care. Self-care includes exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, pursuing creative outlets and getting plenty of sleep.

According to a 2014 National Sleep Foundation poll, over 80 percent of respondents believed that not getting an adequate amount of sleep affected their performance. Those who work long hours reported greater impatience, lower productivity, difficulty concentrating, lapses in memory, mood swings and frequent sleepiness.

And if that weren't enough, sleep deprivation, the study showed, impairs memory, weakens the immune system, slows metabolism and, as some recent studies suggest, may foster weight gain.

Most experts agree that approximately nine hours is the optimal amount of sleep a person should have, but the average adult gets less than seven hours. The negative effects of not getting enough sleep have led to $16 billion in annual healthcare costs as well as $50 billion in lost productivity.

There are plenty of sleep-aid devices on the market, ranging from sound-soothing "white-noise" machines (yes, I have one, and I use it every night) and sleep apnea aids, to mattresses covered in layers of silk, orthopedic pillows and more. Prescription drugs are available, but as with many medications, they may merely mask the symptoms instead of treating the cause.

If you want to get more sleep, here are six helpful hints:

1. Establish a bedtime ritual. 

Give yourself time to wind down and try to go to bed at roughly the same time every night. If you read, grab a book from your bookshelf. Light-emitting ereaders may interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

2. Don't watch TV or work on your computer just before bedtime.

The artificial light suppresses the chemicals in your brain that promote sleep. Most affected is melatonin, a regulating hormone that determines your sleep cycle.

Related: How Setting an Earlier Alarm Changed My Life

3. Don't eat a big meal just before bedtime.

Consuming acidic foods just before bed can cause heartburn. Caffeine, consumed late in the day, is a major contributor to insomnia.

4. Keep the room cool and turn off any bright lights. 

If your bedroom is too hot or too cold, you won't be able to get comfortable and nod off to sleep. Aim to maintain a temperature of somewhere around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 21 degrees Celsius) in your bedroom for optimal rest.

5. Incorporate calming activities into your bedtime routine.

Take a bubble bath or hot shower, light a candle, read or sit quietly before you retire for the evening. These activities help your brain process the day and slow racing thoughts. If you want to exercise, opt for yoga or light stretching.

6. Avoid alcohol.

Avoid alcohol for several hours before putting your head on that pillow; it may make you want to sleep, but you might wake up in short order and have trouble nodding off again.

Even a little additional sleep can help improve your performance at work, provide a better sense of overall well-being and give you more enthusiasm for almost everything you do.

Related: The Surprising Sleep Habits of the Rich and Famous